Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

I Am Judas

Today is Holy Thursday, the Feast of the Lord's Supper, the Solemnity of the Betrayal of Judas.  If we contemplate sin seriously, it can quickly become overwhelming.  Even venial sins - little white lies, sharp words, petty refusals of generosity or gratitude - deserve a terrible punishment because of the majesty of the Creator whose Law they offend.  The most terrible crimes, though, can only leave us unfazed if we are truly callous and hardened.  The temptation we experience all year long, I propose, is not to this sin or to that, but toward this callous failure to understand the horror of sin.  It is rooted perhaps in many foundational failures: carelessly failing to note the glory of God's creation and plan; failure to really take in the dignity of our wife, neighbor, child, coworker; failure to take our own sins as seriously as we take the sins of others.  It is upon this last point that I want to reflect more particularly for just a moment.

It is very common for us to coin new terms like stupak, which nowadays means to betray one's convictions in a self-congratulatory way and to abandon those counting on you to help them in a very important cause.  It's easy to think of the Nazi leaders as the ultimate evil, and their party members as the ultimate colluders of evil, the ultimate opportunists.  It's easy to think of this or that disgraced priest as the ultimate scandal, the most wretched of men.  It's easy for us to think of the school board's ridiculous and immoral curriculum as the ultimate lesson in degradation.

What's hard is to remember that my sins are made of the same sort of thing.  It's hard to remember that I sit silently while others mock the church or make pro-lifers out to be wackos.  It's hard to remember that I buy my food and clothing without a care or a thought toward what "causes" the manufacturers support: gay marriage, abortion, no matter - as long as I get the best ice cream or the best coffee.  It is hard to remember that I have neglected my family obligations because other opportunities were more alluring.  It's hard for me to remember that many of the movies and songs I put into my head that "don't have that effect on me" all the while corrode my heart and thinking.

This, then, is the hard work of the Christian: to remember that I am Judas.

It isn't as dramatic as it sounds.  I am going to set aside the cases of people whom I believe to be possessed outright, like Hitler.  Even in the matter of Judas Iscariot, the gospels tell us that the devil entered into him.  The gospels also show something more to the present point: Judas did not suddenly, dramatically betray our Lord.  His betrayal was the final acheivement in a string of interior desertions.  Fulton Sheen does a good job in one of his books illustrating how Judas is the apostle who never quite got it.  He got money.  That he understood.  He got the Romans.  Them he understood.  But Jesus: Judas never quite understood Him.  Many of us think that we "get" Jesus.  I, like Judas, do not understand Him nearly as well as I think.
The simple fact is that tonight is Holy Thursday.  Tonight, in some way big or small, I will almost certainly betray our blessed Lord with sin - perhaps even between confiteor and communion.  That's something like betraying with a kiss, isn't it?

I am Judas.


Anonymous said...

I dunno Ryan, I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one. What Judas did was purely evil. Not just sinful, but truly and historically evil. Saying "I am Judas" is akin to reckoning ourselves as the contemporaries of Jesus who condemned Him to death, a view which VII rejects, btw.

More appropriate is a comparison to Peter, or the other apostles who abandoned Jesus in fear and denial. They sinned, turned away from doing the right thing, but in the end, were redeemed and in the case of Peter, who was exhorted by the Lord to "turn back and strengthen" the others, much good came from a flawed man. In fact, the papacy and Magisterium came from him, once he was humbled, contrite and forgiven.

There is always the philosophical and theological conundrum of whether Judas is in Hell. While none of us can say for sure, there is at least a strong likelihood that he *is* in Hell, having sold out the Lord, and taking his own life in despair of mercy.

Judas and Peter make an interesting contrast in their response to the own guilt in the passion. But most of we Christians are NOT Judas; most of us, though we sin carelessly, thoughtlessly, or maliciously and with intent, still do not come to the level of evil that Judas attained. With the grace of God, I will never completely deny Jesus. Through all my sins and faults, I know Him to be my Lord and Savior.

And He is Risen!

Thy Handmaid's son said...

Fair points, all, Luce.

I guess what I was intending, however poorly executed, was more of an assault on self-righteousness. "I am Judas" was meant to be "I am the cause of Christ's death," which is corollary to "Jesus died for me."

Of course, I can also be Peter. In fact, Peter is a better analogy in general, since I live, and sin, and repent, and live some more, and do not commit suicide.

Perhaps I should write about being Peter sometime soon.